During the seven days we spent in Green Turtle Cay, at the island of Abaco (Bahamas), the main objective for Carlos, Nuño, Bibi, David and Jose Carlos was to prepare the catamaran for the next leg of the journey. “Many of the tasks we perform onboard are geared to improve the systems, both while we are docked, as while navigate”-indicates Carlos Perez. In this context, they have prepared a complete system “to be able to work with the mizzen sprit as if it was a crane and be able to load auxiliary boats onto deck” –he explains to me. “This will allow us more control of the boats when the sea conditions worsen while at the same time we can operate with fewer personnel.” They have also performed routine oil change to the motors, installed special containers in the bridge to keep binoculars and lanterns, they finished cleaning the hull-“because the “beard” on the ship grows very fast” and they have also installed the platform where the dinghies are placed. Oh! And we also moved the life savers to a more logical location!
Before departure, scheduled for 12:00, the first officer calls all crew members to the deck area, to give us instructions on safety measures onboard and to become aware that each of us plays a particular role onboard, whether you are a biologist, filmmaker, photographer, cook, journalist or sailor…”Anyone traveling on Oceana boats must know and learn certain safety measures”. Carlos warns us that during the crossing, we will go through emergency drills, with no warning, in order to put our readiness to the test.
While we listen to his instructions, a slight breeze begins to blow, and little by little blows harder until in becomes a strong wind. The lecture continues. Before we set sails, everything must be in perfect conditions to navigate: from the sails to tidiness in the cabins, in order to keep objects from flying off and causing accidents, in the event of a storm. The cabin hatches will always be closed, to avoid the risk of someone stumbling and falling overboard at night. The latches on the sides must also be locked, “to avoid having an untimely wave splashing our beds and leave it looking like a swimming pool and so no one can enter without knocking, but in general, the answer to that will be “no”, Carlos warns. During navigation, guard duties will be around the clock, with 3 hour shifts, every 12 hours. Each guard duty will count with an experienced captain in charge, and we must let the following shift know of turn over 15 minutes in advance. Another fundamental regulation: we must leave freshly made coffee in the thermos.
By this time, the wind is in full force, but following with our plan, at 12:00 o’clock Nuño takes his place at the bridge and starts to impart orders. The Oceana catamaran slowly maneuvers and advances a few meters to refuel. Brendal and Willis, two of our local guides come to say goodbye. The wind force begins to cause us a little concern and we all direct our gaze at Nuño. “We are going to wait a few hours, to see if the wind improves. As the wind was blowing at 30 or 35 knots, it was not recommendable to try to remove the Ranger from the fuel pier. Besides, we heard reports of a ship that run aground in the middle of the channel”. This time, it is the elements that delay the Oceana Transoceanic expedition. While I write, Sole helps Indi prepare a lettuce and tomato salad, those are with us through life. “Lunch is ready!” and as we cannot do anything else, we gleefully devour “mamma Indi”’s salad.
At long last, at 4:40 pm on Sunday, May 1st, the Ranger casts off moorings and sets course towards Green Turtle Cay’s exit channel. As we gradually move, I ask Nuño if maneuvers are equally complicated as when we entered. “Fortunately, there are fewer ships anchored and we are already familiar with the channel since we came in” We left behind the welcome sign we saw every time we came back to the catamaran after intense diving sessions. The Oceana ship also says goodbye to the mangroves on both sides of the channel. Farewell, Abaco Island, Farewell “low sea”, Farewell, Bahamas.
The Ranger resumes journey, now, en route to the Sargasso Sea.